The concern for uncertainties in water treaties is the focus of this article, and whether uncertainty has been reflected in the language of treaties over shared water resources. The authors argue that the limits of certainty are being recognized. Crisis can often result from uncertainty, but it is the design of multiple uncertainties into treaties that is the answer to crisis.
Most interestingly, this article discusses two types of uncertainty affecting the need for water treaties, their design and eventual effectiveness (390). These are: Exogenous uncertainties, which includes two sub-types of uncertainties: Exogenous resource uncertainty (e.g. perceived uncertainties related to material nature of shared water resources) and exogenous background uncertainty (e.g. internal politics, international relations, and market fluctuations).
And, there are induced endogenous uncertainties (e.g. uncertainties related to implementation of the treaty, or how data is collected and its validity, as well as uncertainty about treaty finances).
These types of uncertainties can lead to overuse, degradation, inequitable distribution of the resource and even conflict (390) of a shared water resource. There are four strategies for addressing the exogenous uncertainties addressed above, and the endogenous uncertainties they create. The four strategies that can be employed in treaty design are: ignoring uncertainty, complete contracts approach, uncertainty minimization strategy, and open-ended strategy. Each of these has its merits (expect for , perhaps, ignoring uncertainty in language used). But, such strategies will be essential, considering the serious implications of exogenous uncertainties addressed in this article, as well as the challenges outlined by Ganoulis and Fried (2013), who provide an expansive account of the anthropogenic impacts to shared water resources, as well as the diversity of actors who must be part of decision-making processes over shared water resources.
The authors find two trends in their study of uncertainty in treaties. First, “treaties have become more complex in their potential options for handling of uncertainty, which could suggest that there is a changing perception of risk and a higher appreciation of uncertainty in water negotiations” (403). Second, there is an “increasing realization of the advantages of more open-ended strategies” (403).